Category Archive: indian army

  1. British Sikh Regiments: An OrBat from 1914

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    An Order of Battle is an important piece of military knowledge, which enables a researcher or analyst to make certain fact based assessments about the make up of an army and how a field force lines up in battle.

    To researchers of the First World War, it provides vital information and understanding about the units deployed to certain arenas of war.  This is significant now, as we try to understand how the Sikh regiments were represented in the British Indian Army in 1914.

    Acknowledging this enables us today to fully appreciate the huge sacrifice of the Sikhs – a race of people that despite being just 1% of the population at the time were represented in a third of all native British Indian regiments.

    Having researched the OrBat of the British Indian Army, the below film depicts for the first time how they were organised.  It shows solely the line up of regiments containing Sikhs, white units and non-Sikh units are not included for the purposes of the film:

    The Sikhs made up a significant part of the forces, we know.  Their were Sikh class-based regiments as well as Sikhs serving in mixed-class Punjabi regiments.

    Within the cavalry, we can pick out the the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) as one regiment with a rich military history; earning battle honours at Arracon, Sabroan, Egypy and Tel-el-Kebir.  It’s composition consisted of x1 Sikh, x1 Rajput, x1 Jatt (Hindu), x1 Hindustani Muslim squadrons.  The regiment would play a key role throughout the war on the western front, fighting at La Basee, Givenchy, Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, Somme, Morval and Cambrai.

    Within the infantry, the 9th Bhopal had a battle honour from Afghanistan 1878.  The regiment consisted of x2 Sikh, x2 Rajput, x2 Brahman and x2 Muslim double-company squadrons (a unique Indian set up, consisting of around 80 soldiers).  The regiment went from India to serve in France but in 1915 was moved to Egypt and then Mesopotamia.

    In total, according to my research, the Sikhs were represented in x29 cavalry regiments and x54 infantry regiments.  To this we can add the x2 Sappers and Miners.

    That means a total of 83 regiments contained Sikhs – either as a wholly Sikh class-based regiment or with Sikh squadrons or double-companies.

    This is an immense contribution – unseen anywhere else by any other racial grouping.

    It is inspiring and something we British Sikhs in particular should be extremely proud of.

  2. Sikh Order of Battle

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    One of the key elements of “Sikhs At War” research has been to understand how the Sikh regiments were organised during the Great War.

    This is important for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, because it acknowledges the number of Sikhs that served.  Not just in the double-company and squadron system each regiment had – but also the overall number that were deployed.

    Up to 126,000 Sikhs served from 1914 – 1918 in all 7 major arena’s of the war.

    Secondly, it enables us to see where the regiments were deployed by virtue of the Brigades and Divisions that were sent.

    Sikhs didn’t just go to France, but many many more went to Mesopotamia – as well as East Africa, Gallipoli, Palestine, Suez and the North West Frontier to defend India.

    I’m pleased therefore that with our recent Kickstarter funding campaign we’ve been able to put into a short film format our research into the Order of Battle of Sikh Units in 1914.

    We’ll be releasing the full video shortly – but here’s a teaser.

    Many thanks to our designer Richard Stott for his valiant efforts creating this video map.